“Spencer loquitur: Moi, J’ecoute en riant” by Alexander Robertson

by theliterarymaiden

This concludes Last Poems of Alexander Robertson. Please refer to my tag, “Alexander Robertson (War Poet)” in the drop-down menu found at the bottom of this page if you are interested in reading more of his work.

Spencer loquitur: Moi, J’ecoute en riant
Alexander Robertson
From Last Poems of Alexander Robertson, 1918

“Ah, Robertson, my hour is drawing nigh:
At this, as at all partings, let us sigh,
(As soldiers we can hardly drop a tear,
Unless assured that no one else is near!)
Whither go I? I know not nor can feel
Much interest in the question: ’tis your weal
I ponder o’er. Now listen—did they call?
No! my mistake: I thought I heard the bawl
Of rude commandment—hark to me, old boy:
My powers of reasoning I shall employ
To do you kindness. Regard me; I have been
For ten long years a soldier and between
Yourself and me (the French say, entre nous:
And, by the way for hairs they say cheveux,
Chevaux for horses, so you must beware
When you are thronéd in the barber’s chair)—
What was I saying? Ah, I was about
To tell a story that must not come out:
Long since I wearied of the life of camps
Though true, of course, to him who on our stamps
Proclaims his kingship. And I am most fain
Before I go—perchance to join the slain,
Alas!—to bid you when this war hath end
Break with a life which, as I must contend,
Is, as the Bard of Avon would have said,
‘Unprofitable, flat,’ and where the bread
Of life is spread not with the jam of—well,
I scarce know how to finish; can you tell,
Suggest a fitting finish to my ‘trope’?”
“What of ‘the Bard of Avon’? he, I hope
Might haply help us.” “Ah, but bless you, lad,
I spoke of Shakespeare! even in Petrograd
The guttersnipes can quote him;—the peasants too
Upon the farms that labour:—Surely you
Have not received,—but I must sure return
To my ‘large utterance,’ for still I burn
To aid:—ah, there’s indeed the shout
Imperious that we may never flout.
Farewell, adieu, adieu, farewell, and ah!
Be heedful of my—how they shout! Ta-ta!!”

In reference to the farewell advice of an uneducated but kind-hearted Sergeant who left the hospital before the author.